Does Central Asia belong to the Global South?

Shairbek Dzhuraev is co-founder and president of Crossroads Central Asia.

Does Central Asia belong to the Global South? There is no short answer to this seemingly simple question. The concept of the Global South remains peripheral in Central Asian studies, just as Central Asia is non-existent in the debates on the Global South. However, there is no good reason for such discrepancy to continue. The Global South is relevant to Central Asia in multiple ways. First, the key themes in the studies of Central Asia’s state and politics highlight the region’s essentially subaltern nature. Second, there is a small but growing regional scholarship that directly addresses many facets of Central Asia’s “southernness”. Therefore, a more pertinent question is not whether Central Asia is part of the Global South, but in what ways it is so. In other words, how “southern” is Central Asia?

Debating Central Asia’s Global South credentials offers a (not so) hidden treasure in at least two ways. First, it will push scholars to rethink, revisit and move beyond the region’s notorious “post-Sovietness”. If Central Asia is an uneasy fit for 20th century postcolonial literature, the Global South might offer a more appropriate framework to discuss the dependent and subaltern characteristics in the region’s past and present. Second, seeing Central Asia as part of the Global South will shed new light on the richness, nuances and conceptual limits of the latter. This region has something to offer to nearly any strand of the Global South literature, from postcolonial to post-liberal or post-Western. Below, the article proposes several observations on why and how Central Asia – Global South nexus has strong foundations.

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The article was published in the Newsletter of APSA Comparative Politics Section 31 (2), 2021.

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